transfer since Michigan ended its season with a loss to Ohio in the NCAA Tournament. Redshirt freshman Sai Tummala has decided to leave the program after just one year. No reasons were given, but it did leave many fans wondering about the direction of Michigan's basketball team and roster. Losing four players to transfer and two senior starters to graduation should put up a few red flags for next year.
Tummala's transfer is not extremely surprising. He was rated as a 1* by ESPN, came in as a walkon, and received no playing time last season. Along with that, he didn't seem to be lined up for much playing time in the future because of Michigan's depth and recruiting. Michigan's 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes are stacked and it's not likely that Tummala would amount to anything more than a glorified backup for Michigan.
Beilein had repeatedly praised Tummala, which does make this a bit surprising, but again, the idea of being on the scout team for another four years with little to no chance to play probably didn't sound too appealing. I mean, I know I would reconsider my choice if I was in that position. When Tummala decided to come to Michigan, the program was growing and looking good, but over the last season the program has really turned the corner in both recruiting and play on the court. This makes it even tougher for walk-ons to find playing time. I mean, compare it to football. They have eleven players out there and odd situations like special teams. Basketball has five players and doesn't get those odd sets except in garbage time. It's not great for players in Tummala's situation.
Given this, I'm assuming that Tummala will be looking for somewhere else to play. With all the experience he's developed over the past year, I'm sure he'll be a great pick-up for any program. Plus, he had outstanding academics at the school, which should make him even more attractive to other programs. However, even if Tummala finds a place where he can get a scholarship and contribute, what's left for Michigan moving forward?
Last week, I talked about Carlton Brundidge transferring to Detroit. I said since he hadn't made major contributions, it wasn't a big loss for Michigan and offered both the school and the player a chance at a fresh start. This situation is a bit different. Brundidge will probably be a bigger loss since he was a high profile recruit for Michigan and had a scholarship. Tummala had no scholarship and really only increased the value of the team. Think about it, Michigan gave up essentially nothing to have him on the team, but he still gave the team a valuable scout player and someone with the potential to contribute in the future.
Now, let's be real. This isn't a major loss by any means. Michigan, especially given it's current state among Big Ten programs, is going to be able to replace walk-on players pretty easily. Losing a scout player is not a major deal. It's certainly a setback because Michigan's starters and backups will have weaker competition on a daily basis for at least the immediate future, but it's not something that should make any fan panic.
There's no way to spin this loss positively, but it should be noted that it's not something that should make any significant impact. Tummala is a fine player and an excellent student, but the program certainly didn't hinge on any of his decisions. Do I think this is a sign of deeper program difficulties? No, not at all. It's just a walk-on that probably felt he had a better opportunity elsewhere. I wish him the best and hope he'll be able to get a free education somewhere, if he does opt to transfer (officials just said he left the program). Regardless, Michigan's team should be fine.